Famed for the preppy polo shirts with their familiar polo logo, as a brand Ralph Lauren generally conjures the image of the luxurious American lifestyle. Founded in 1967, Ralph Lauren began his career designing neckties and opened his first tie shop under the label ‘polo’. Despite never having had any prior fashion training Lauren successfully expanded his line in the early 1970s by obtaining the rights to use the trade mark button down collar shirt. Around this time he also released a line of women’s suits, cut in the shape of men’s style; these were the first items to feature the famous polo emblem. Shortly afterwards he released a line of women’s short sleeve ‘polo’ shirts, in a range of 24 colours, which soon became a classic.
However come November Lauren will hand over the reins of his company to Stefan Larsson, a Gap executive who has been running Old Navy, a budget brand, for 3 years. Larsson has proven very successful as recent figures show, Old Navy’s annual sales have risen by 8%. The brand has become the company’s biggest business, overtaking Gap in the process. The changeover comes as Lauren experienced a fall in net profit of $74m as well almost a 40% decrease in shares. However Lauren has shown to have confidence in the new chief executive who he described as ‘exceptionally talented’. The vision for the company is to expand it globally in order to appeal to a greater number of customers and increase sales. The company currently has 466 stores worldwide as well as a number of subsidiaries such as Club Monaco and more recently Polo for Women and Polo Sport.
Apart from being one of the most famed product designers in the world, Lauren has proved to be a capable marketing man, dressing every aspect of the wealthy all- American lifestyle from exotic travel wear, to business and suits. Ralph Lauren has launched menswear, womenswear, cologne,
Some of the most notable points in Lauren’s career include his work on the 1974 film, ‘The Great Gatsby’, where he partook in the costume designs for the actors, most notably the ‘pink suit’ worn by Robert Redford as well as the sharp, sleek clothing designs worn by Diane Keaton and Woody Allen in the 1977 film, ‘Annie Hall’.
Another aspect of Lauren’s success has been its advertisement campaigns depicting a measured and monied society. One of the main influences of Lauren’s vision in his adverts was the work of famed photographer Bruce Weber, one of the most prominent photographers of the 1980s and 90s. Weber’s main theme was classical sculpture in the form of athletic heroes such as could be seen in the work he did with Calvin Klein. However over the 20 years he has worked for Lauren he has helped create that dream-like privileged world of country houses and polo matches, bereft of all the chaos that intrudes upon real life.